Hong Kong's ParknShop Supermarket And Local Produce...

Spotted this today.

This is the ParknShop supermarket in Fisherman's Wharf next to the Celestial Heights residential development in Hung Hom, Kowloon.

If I was ParknShop owner Mr Li Ka-shing I would not be boasting about sourcing food globally.

In the current mood of post-Copenhagen disappointment, Mr Li should be aware that his slogan 'GLOBAL SOURCE' flys in the face of the sound environmental principles being adopted by supermarkets worldwide that care about social responsibility.

Quite simply put, transporting food by air is bad for the environment. Why buy food that has been flown halfway across the earth, when it can be got locally?

Since Flopenhagen no one talks about climate change much anymore, but the problem has not gone away.

And locally produced veggies taste better anyway. I did a taste test a few years ago whereby I made gazpacho with as many different kinds of tomatoes I could lay my hands on. This taste test included a super expensive variety of tomato from Causeway Bay's Sogo department store which are flown in from Japan daily. And you know what? The cheap Guangdong plum tomatoes from Central's Graham Street market tasted best. They won hands down.

Obviously I did the gazpacho test before I knew anything about the politics of food.

So to my local readers, please think again before choosing those Washington apples flown in from the USA. Chinese apples are just as good...

For more on the ethics of 'food miles' click here.


Hong Kong's Legal Year 2010 Ceremonial Opening

Yesterday was the first day of Hong Kong's Legal Year 2010.

The ceremony was held amid much British-style pomp and circumstance. The out-going Hon Chief Justice of Hong Kong Andrew Kwok-nang Li (below, centre) made a speech which received a standing ovation from the assembled members of the judiciary.

Apart from the obvious attraction of seeing Chinese men and women wearing funny wigs, the event was uplifting for the fact that Andrew Li received so much support. He's the man who is widely credited with upholding, to the highest degree, the legal system we enjoy in Hong Kong under the "one county, two systems" principle. He's the man who stands between us and the abyss. And that's why they are all sorry to see him go.

Andrew Li said in his speech, "It is essential to judicial independence that the process of judicial appointment never be politicised. In our jurisdiction, it has not been politicised and I trust that it never will be. [...] Everyone, including all organs of government and all public officials, are subject to and equal before the law. The Judiciary is and must be seen to be impartial. Judges resolve all disputes, whether between citizens or between citizen and government in an impartial manner."

Unlike in other jurisdictions nearby.


The Hong Kong Illegal Ivory Trade Still Thrives...

I get an daily avalanche of press releases from the Hong Kong Government.

Whilst doing a Monday morning back-trawl of my inbox, I found a Hong Kong Government Customs & Excise Department press release with two handout photos (not mine) about a seizure of illegal elephant tusks. According to Customs & Excise, this illegal shipment of ivory came from Nigeria. It was listed as "white wood" on the consignment paperwork.

Here is their press release in full:-

Serial No.: GIS201001080257

Unmanifested ivory tusks seized in Kwai Chung (with photos)

Customs officers yesterday morning (January 7) seized a total of 186 pieces of ivory tusks inside a container shipped to Hong Kong. The ivory tusks were worth about $2 million.

The consignment, declared as 285 pieces of "White Wood" and coming from Nigeria, was shipped to Hong Kong via Malaysia on December 18, 2009.

Officers of the Ports and Maritime Command found 186 pieces of ivory tusks concealed inside the consignment during examination at Kwai Chung Container Terminal. Follow-up investigation is still going on.

Under the Import and Export Ordinance, any person found guilty of importing unmanifested cargoes is liable to a maximum fine of $2 million and imprisonment for seven years.

In addition, under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance, any person found guilty of trading endangered species for commercial purposes is liable to a maximum fine of $5 million and imprisonment for two years.

Ends/Friday, January 8, 2010
Issued at HKT 19:59


On a micro and a macro level, I have many many questions about this seizure. But right now it seems that I'm up against a Hong Kong Government brick wall in getting any answers.


I asked the government spokesman if I could go and take my own pictures of the ivory seizure, and the answer was no. Apparently the "case was closed" on Friday. Does that mean that it's too much trouble for a man with a key to unlock a door to let me in with a camera to take my own photographs? Is this just bureaucracy at its worst? Isn't the government trying to polish its green credentials? If so, allowing greater media access to the problems of the illegal wildlife trade would be a quick and easy way for them to do just that. What is their problem?

I'd also like to know if this consignment bound for mainland China or was it for the Hong Kong market?

Why was there next nothing about this in the local press? From the South China Morning Post a just few lazy 'copy and paste' lines in 'City Digest', with no photos:-

"186 pieces of ivory tusk seized

Customs seized 186 pieces of ivory tusk, worth HK$2 million, during an examination at Kwai Chung Container Terminal. The consignment was declared as 285 pieces of white wood and shipped in from Nigeria via Malaysia to Hong Kong on December 18. Customs is investigating. Anyone found guilty of trading endangered species faces a HK$5 million fine and two years' jail. Austin Chiu"

What I'm getting at here is....where is the sense of outrage in Hong Kong?


Why, oh why, is this still going on after all these years? Is ivory really still that cool that people still want stuff made out of it? If so, why? Is it not a bit 'lo to', as they say in Cantonese? And does anyone really care about the illegal trade in endangered wildlife parts?


A Quick Peek At The 'Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture'

Yesterday I went to Shenzhen to pick up a few things that I had left there in December last year.

Whilst there, I thought I would pop into the 'Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture' to see what it was all about. What a mouthful, and yes - that is a backwards backslash. Maybe it was the winter weather, but the art installations in Shenzhen's Civic Square left me cold. TV sets incorporated into the installations were not switched on. A big white sky shone a cold grey light on everything. And everything was covered in a thin layer of the Pearl River Delta's finest factory grime. Sand and hay were sodden. And no one looked like they cared. What is it about state-sponsored outdoor art that it always has to look so forlorn? This one, called 'Triptyque', is a creation by architects Greg Bousquet, Carolina Bueno, Guillaume Sibaud and Olivier Raffaelli. Not sure why, but it somehow it reminded me of Rob Luxton's creations. In a good way of course, if you are reading this, Rob.

Some people rode on by, using the square as a shortcut from A to B, but a few bemused folk did stop and look at the art. This piece is entitled 'Urban Oasis' is by Studio Pei-Zhu in collaboration with design engineering firm ARUP. According to the plaque next to it, 'Urban Oasis' "...is inspired by traditional Chinese philosophical concepts of balance and harmony with nature, creating a space in which visitors gain energy and refinement from natural coexistence." It continues, "Studio Pei-Zhu, founded by Zhu Pei, is a platform for research into the relationship between Chinese philosophy and contemporary architecture, an experimental practice dealing with both tradition and the future". I just can't help my eyes from glazing over when I re-read those last two sentences.

On the way back to the Hong Kong border, my taxi stopped at a set of traffic lights. A familar Shenzhen scenario then unfolded, as a begging mother and child appearered at my window. I took their picture. Nice and candid.

Sometimes I give money to beggars, and sometimes I don't. But there's nothing wrong with a bit of give and take.

The mother seemed happy enough with the RMB10.00 (USD1.46) I gave her for being photographed.

Must have been all that energy and refinement that I gained from natural coexistence at 'Urban Oasis'...


Blogroll Reciprocity

I finally got a moment to update my "Right Hand Side Of The Page" blogroll with six more Hong Kong blogs that either link to me or that I would recommend.

Or both.

Here they are, in no particular order...

Hong Kong Or Bust


Smog's Blog


The Dark Side


And here, by way of a space filler, is a photo of a man sitting on a park bench on London's Hampstead Heath that I took in 2005, until I can get my arse into gear for 2010!


'Man & Shark', A Sneak Preview

Here's a sneak preview of a short movie that I have been working on for quite while.

The movie is still a work in progress, as I need to add a better music soundtrack. A music producer friend of my brother is supposed to be helping me out with that.

The short film 'Man & Shark' will be officially released in Hong Kong sometime around Chinese New Year, in tandem with a book of the same title.

The movie contains video footage shot by me in Mozambique, Yemen and Hong Kong. It also contains underwater footage of sharks from Indonesia and Fiji.

The book 'Man & Shark' will also contain many of my photographs on the subject of sharks and shark finning, as well some awesome photographs by co-author and fellow Hong Kong photographer Paul Hilton, among many others.

It's a stop/start project of ours that has been going on since April 2006, so as you can well imagine, we will be glad to finally get closure on it.

Roll on Chinese New Year, roll on the printing presses.


Cracking Hong Kong's Cartels...

I had a jaw-dropping moment yesterday, when I spotted this light box ad in Taipei's Taoyuan International Airport, Taiwan.

What are the chances of such an ad ever gracing the walls of Hong Kong International Airport? Or any other outdoor advertising space in 'Asia's World City' for that matter? Slim to none, I would think.

Taiwanese politics is always a big mess. But how great is it to see a government-led initiative to stamp out collusion amongst big business and government, which Hong Kong so sorely needs?

Visible in the photos, here is a link to the Taiwanese cartel cracker's website.

Please Hong Kong Chief Executive, Donald Tsang, if you are reading this, can we have a 'Fair Trade Commission' too?


Vice Magazine Went To The North Pacific Gyre, or Trash Vortex...

...and this is what they found, (press 'SKIP THIS AD' to avoid having to watch a tacky beer commercial at the start).


Merry Christmas!

Here's one from the archive.

Hong Kong's finest during the World Trade Organizsation ministerial meeting in Hong Kong, December 2005.

Best wishes and happy holidays, everybody.


Severed Dead Dog's Head On A Frame, Jiangsu Province, China

This week I'm in China shooting a corporate job for a US/China joint venture company. I'm mainly shooting workers performing repetitive tasks at supplier factories for the JV company's new website. Eleven factories, four cities, five days.

This afternoon, at a factory in Jiangsu Province, I needed to gain some height for a top shot of the main factory building. I thought an old dormitory building for construction workers looked just perfect for that. So I climbed up the outside stairs to the first floor of the derelict building, got the required shot of the factory, then came back down again. It was here, in the building's courtyard, that I stopped dead in my tracks, coming face to face with a severed dead dog's head, dangling by a chain on a frame. As the Americans like to say, "WTF!"

Why? My assumption is that because meat can be expensive for Chinese construction workers, stray dogs provide a quick and dirty source of cheap meat. Chinese, (and Koreans), believe that eating dog meat in cold weather is good for a 'winter warmer'. And its freezing cold in Jiangsu right now. So that seems like a reasonable explanation. Except that judging by the state of the building's decrepitude, the construction workers moved out long ago. Who knows. Maybe it was workers from the factory. They aren't exactly earning rock star salaries either. No idea.

Spot the dog pelts drying in the sun. Nothing goes to waste in China.

I don't want to get into whether eating dog is right or wrong. Not on this blog. So often the 'eating dog' issue gets hijacked by the anti-China crowd. China-haters use it as a stick to beat the Chinese people with. This is despite the fact most Chinese I know are thoroughly embarrassed by this slightly arcane culinary tradition. Rational online discussion of this particular 'hot button' issue seems impossible. A slanging match with sharp nationalist overtones is far more likely to be the order of the day.

No, what I'm more interested in is why the severed dog's head was placed at eye-level à la 'Lord Of The Flies'. And why were there two puppies of an entirely different breed frolicking at my feet whilst I shot these pictures? Was it cosmic irony? These are the real questions gnawing at my soul.

Answers on a postcard, please...


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